The track record of Forest Hills’ cinematic and televised history continues to be more diverse, with writer and director Bradley Cooper coming to town!
From June 15 to June 18, Markwood Road, as well as Summer Street between Greenway South and Seasongood Road was transformed into the 1940s, with the addition of classic, colorful cars alongside Forest Hills Gardens’ historic Tudor and Arts & Crafts architecture and lush landscapes.
“Maestro,” which is also being referred to as “Rybernia” under Panthera Productions, may remain as its designated title.
It will be a Netflix biopic that chronicles the life of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, and particularly spotlights his love and marriage to Felicia Montealegre.
The cast features notable names including Cooper, who portrays Bernstein, Carey Mulligan as Montealegre, Sarah Silverman as Bernstein’s sister, Maya Hawke, and Batt Bomer.
The production team also features Josh Singer, who scripted this latest work, as well as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Todd Phillips.
Singer was the recipient of an Academy Award for “Spotlight” as Best Original Screenplay in 2015.
In “The Life of Leonard Bernstein” by Jim Whitting, Rybernia originated in the late 1920s when Bernstein was 10, and reflects a collaboration of his nickname and his neighbor Eddie Ryack. The biopic takes place in the 1940s, 1970s, and 1980s, and begins in black and white and transitions into color, hence the decades.
For Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series, Cooper told Mahershala Ali earlier this year, “I wanted to be a conductor since I was a kid. I was obsessed with it and asked Santa Claus for a baton when I was eight. Listening to music, falling in love with it, and being able to really know every single moment of a piece… I could do it as if I know everything about it without really being able to speak the language, obviously.”
The biopic began filming on the Upper West Side on June 6. It is set to be released next year, and will be the first film that Cooper co-wrote and directed since the remake of “A Star Is Born” in 2018.
Leonard Bernstein achieved stardom as a world’s greatest musician, and was notably the first American conductor to receive international fame.
Along with his family, he was a resident of the legendary Dakota in an eight-room apartment. Throughout his career, he was the recipient of seven Emmy Awards, 16 Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement, two Tony Awards, and a Kennedy Center Honor.
Bernstein was the New York Philharmonic’s longtime music director, and achieved a legacy as the first American conductor to lead a major symphony orchestra.
With major international orchestras in his presence, it became the subject of a massive inventory of video and audio recordings. He also significantly revived the music of Gustav Mahler.
As a multi-genre composer, Bernstein pursued orchestral and symphonic music, opera, choral works, ballet, theatrical and film music, and chamber music among other works for the piano. “West Side Story” is his most recognized Broadway musical. His other signature theatrical works include “Candide,” “On The Town, “Wonderful Town,” and “MASS.”
Residents experienced the wow factor: “I love the fact that Forest Hills Gardens hasn’t really changed since the time period of the film, thanks to preservation efforts,” Pat Lannan said.
“I loved all of the cars that were used to reflect the period of time that the film will be set in. It really gave me a feeling of what it was like to walk in Forest Hills Gardens back in the 1940s, with the classic cars parked. It felt like a time machine.”
“Some things just happen, which is the charming part of living in the city,” said Abraham Chuang, the admin of the popular Facebook page NYDeTour, who noticed set location signs posted along Ascan Avenue, and then followed a trail through Seasongood Road to Summer Street.
“Bradley Cooper was holding a cigarette in my photo, but I didn’t meet him face to face. There are more and more movies or TV series choosing Forest Hills and Rego Park for their scenes, and I am like, ‘What took you so long?’ Personally, I like the fact that the movie industry is starting to notice the beauty and uniqueness of Forest Hills,” he continued. “This is such a beautiful neighborhood that will alter the general impression to people who are not living in the city. Forest Hills Gardens is a fantastic secret garden with a nostalgic vibe that you can walk into, and what’s even more amazing is that every season has its own beauty.”
Upon encountering the film set, Roxana Eroxy said, “All cars talk to me, as they have stories and personalities. They are all beautiful ladies. Additionally, Forest Hills Gardens is heaven on earth, with a beautiful setting for filming old homes.”
Jeffrey Carrasquillo also expressed much excitement: “Forest Hills has been my home for the last 30 years, and I love the fact it’s being used for TV and movies. I can’t wait to see the episodes and the films!”
“I love all old cars, but I liked what looked like a circa 1950 Jackie Gleason bus the best, with its olive-green color with a yellowish trim,” he continued. “It reminded me of when it was a dime.”
Historically, film enthusiasts can find “Sentimental Tommy,” a silent drama film in 1921, and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 psychological crime thriller “Strangers on A Train,” which featured key scenes at Forest Hills Stadium.
Scenes from the 2001 film, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” were also shot on the property. The historic Eddie’s Sweet Shop accommodated scenes from the 1986 film “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” the 2007 film “The Ex,” as well as the 2010 romantic drama film, “Remember Me,” which featured Pierce Brosnan and Robert Pattinson.
Some standouts in more recent years were the five-part HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce” starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, an FX spy drama “The Americans,” and a comedy-drama television series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
In October, the autobiographical drama “Armageddon Time” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, was filmed near 6 Burns Street, and transformed it into the 1980s.